A Kid’s Big, Fancy Birthday Chariot

The happenings of 2020 changed this world. This is obvious and irreproachable. However, what isn’t immediately obvious is the effect it all had on the tiniest members of society: Children. Schools were shuttered, playdates postponed, and of course, birthday parties canceled. As a dad of three, I look back on the past 18 months mostly with frustration and anger, knowing that it affected my children more than I’ll ever understand. But for now, my youngest daughter is aching to get out there and make up for lost time. This desire of hers recently took us on a trip in a 2021 Bentley Flying Spur V8 to celebrate her 10th birthday—a trip that almost ended before it even started, and that would eventually teach us many things about life as we slowly move back toward normalcy.

A special trip requires special wheels. The Flying Spur is the pinnacle of the Bentley range, boasting the ultimate in automotive luxury and British craftsmanship. Unlike its rivals from Rolls-Royce or Mercedes-Maybach, however, the Flying Spur has the heart of a grand tourer, treating the driver to an engaging driving experience while spoiling the passengers with palace-like accommodations. Whether you’re tackling a curvy country road or getting a shiatsu massage in the back, there isn’t a wrong seat in the house.

2021 Bentley Flying Spur Specs

  • Base price (as tested): $214,600 ($261,340)
  • Powertrain: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 | 8-speed automatic | all-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 542 @ 6,000 rpm 
  • Torque: 568 @ 2,000 rpm to 4,500 rpm
  • 0-60 mph: 4.0 seconds 
  • Top speed: 198 mph
  • Seating capacity: 4 or 5 depending on configuration
  • Cargo volume: 14.83 cubic feet
  • Curb weight: 5,137 pounds
  • EPA fuel economy: 15 mpg city | 20 highway | 17 combined
  • Quick take: A no-compromise, ultra-luxury sedan that’s as much fun to drive as it is to be chauffeured in.

It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

Of my three kids, Josephine is the youngest and also the hungriest to see the world and experience new things. And she’s also the fanciest, with a keen eye for fashion, architecture—and, of course, cars. At the height of the pandemic, she retreated into the internet and used her iPad as her window to the world. It became her life. Schoolwork, remote piano lessons, hours of Roblox with the same friends she dearly missed; they all happened on the same screen. As a parent, it became impossible to regulate screen time, knowing that by limiting it, we would essentially be taking away whatever little sense of normalcy and human interaction she was hanging onto.

One night in 2020, at the end of yet another rough and emotional day for my daughter, I asked her what she wanted to do for her big 10, which at the time was almost a year away. I told her to think about it carefully. I wanted her to know that mom and dad wanted her to feel like she could step out of her present, ugly reality and think big. Most of all, I wanted her to know that things would be better in the future—or so I hoped at the time.

After a couple of weeks, she’d finally made a decision: Legoland. Not just any Legoland, but the Legoland. The one in the brand’s home country of Denmark. When I asked, “Why not the Legoland in Florida or California?” She answered, “Because Denmark is in Europe.” Well played, child.

Despite enticing our children to dream big, Denmark would’ve been a total stretch in any year, let alone during a pandemic. That’s when we found out about a brand-new Legoland in Upstate New York. An official plan was set in motion, with my wife and I crossing our fingers hoping that things would work out in the end.

Then, shortly before the trip, it happened. What seemed like a mild cold evolved into something more serious, and a visit to the doctor turned into a trip to the ER. Josephine’s heart rate was abnormally high and her body temperature resembled a rollercoaster; normal at times and dangerously high at others. Ultimately, what we feared most became true: the COVID-19 test came back positive.

I could go on about what that time was like for her and the entire family, but I’d rather forget about the agonizing weeks that followed, mostly because I witnessed sights and experienced feelings that I’d never want to relive—nor that I’d wish on any parent.

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Josephine stared at the Manhattan skyline from the rear window of the Flying Spur, bewildered by the skyscrapers. She was only three during her first visit to the city, so she didn’t remember any of it. And unlike last time, when we made the trip in a Kia minivan, this time she was sitting pretty in the Imperial Blue back seat of a British supersedan, sipping a Frappuccino, pressing her face against the glass.

As we progressed into the heart of the city, it became evident that the Arctica White Flying Spur perfectly embodied the aspirational motif of our journey. A Bentley symbolizes success, and New York City does too—at least in our family. Manhattan was the very first city in America my father ever visited, and it’s also where I lived for a couple of years while attending school. Combining these sentiments with a grandiose car like a Flying Spur—and not to mention my daughter’s birthday—made for a special cocktail of emotions. And for Josephine, the sights and sounds around her had been nearly a year in the making, a year with more downs than ups, and one that got considerably worse before it got any better.

As we stopped at her favorite NYC bakery to pick up her birthday cake, I couldn’t help but feel extremely grateful that we were just there. We were there because, despite the last-minute curveball, we were celebrating her life. And I could sit here and tell you that a car with the panache of a Bentley doesn’t influence your emotions, but I’d be lying to you. From the exquisitely-stitched headrests to the granular stone veneer splashed across the cabin, it makes you feel as if you’ve arrived—albeit temporarily, in my case. Combine these feelings with the vibrancy of a city like New York, and life almost felt too good to be true.

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